Andy Schmidt (vocals, guitars): “For us this record is for every individual, to all mankind actually: who are we? Where do we want to go? What is our perspective for climate, for everything? What are we going to do? What is my own point of start and my own contribution to everything? All these questions melt down in this past year. Then ‘Ayam’ came along and we thought: okay that is the perfect title for exactly those questions.”
Disillusion plaatste zich meteen in de eredivisie van progressieve death metal bands met hun 2004 debuut ‘Back To Times Of Splendor’. De opvolger ‘Gloria’ bleek totaal anders te zijn. Een erg lange sabbatperiode werd gevolgd door ‘The Liberation’ in 2019, een album in de stijl van hun geprezen debuut dat wereldwijd goede kritieken ontving. Drie jaar later, slaat het Duitse collectief rond mastermind Andy Schmidt terug met een glorieus, uitdagend en volwassen album, ‘Ayam’ getiteld. We hadden een gemoedelijk gesprek met de schepper van al dit fraais vlak na een tournee met Obscura en Persefone.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 25 januari 2023
I have been following Disillusion since the beginning with your stunning debut ‘Back To Times Of Splendor’ and once again ‘Ayam’ turned into quite a surprise. You always come up with such inventive things. How are you doing?
At the moment? (laugh) Well, today has been quite stressful and demanding. The past ten months it has been continuously going on, so we are pretty tired in a way. We had a one month tour, only two weeks ago we came home, but then we had the covid-19. It was demanding, but this is just the negative side. The positive side is that we are really looking forward to releasing the album, because we think it is a good one. From our perspective we are very proud of it. So all our energy is going into the release. It is both sides all the time, you know.
Indeed I saw that you did a tour in September with Obscura and Persefone. That was the one I think, isn’t it?
Yes. And now some headline shows from time to time. Just came home yesterday. We came home from the tour and had covid-19. We had two weeks – or ten days – to recover and it worked. Then we were negative. We don’t have any problems now, but it could have gone wrong you know. The last three years have been demanding, also during the recording process and writing. Always uncertainty and everybody was afraid of everything, but I am glad we pulled it through, so that we did not have to cancel anything. Everything went the way we wanted it.
Fortunately, because the new album ‘Ayam’ was written during the isolation of the pandemic. How did you face that?
Well, we have to go back to 2019 when we released ‘The Liberation’ and then we did a lot of shows and everything was really going well. We started a little bit of writing and then we went back on tour in February 2020 and all of a sudden – of course, like for anybody else – lockdowns came and live streams, but anyways we wanted to start writing in March after the tour, so we thought: ‘okay, now it is lockdown, let us go ahead and start.’ Of course nobody knew how long this would take and what was going to happen. During that period -except from our families – the band was our social club, you know. When we met, we could not meet or invite any friends and all that, but we could meet on a professional level and when we met, we always called it our social club. Of course it was demanding and writing music during that time, every single thing that we experienced went into the music of course, all the fears and updates and now there is war… That is the next thing we have to face. Now everything is changing again, but well… ‘Ayam’ came out of that.
A very rich emotional record I would say…
Very private things. I don’t want to say that this is the complete variety of emotions that we had during the time. It is not that we sat down and said: hey let us make this and that. All of it happened on the way, you know. First of all, before covid-19, we wanted to make a new album that went more into the extremes. We definitely wanted to do that, but more on a level that we wanted to make harder thing heavier and softy things more smooth that focuses on the atmosphere. Increase the extremes on both sides and I think that is what we achieved. We kind of went further on through our boundaries. There are always a lot of changes, but this time even more.
‘Ayam’ is a word from Sanskrit, how did you come to this choice?
Well, the other way around. The first song ‘Am Abgrund’ – ‘The Abyss’ in English – includes a part where we are singing: ‘who are you?’ and we thought okay, that is the main question of the whole record: who are you and who are we. I am. In the end, after all the covid-19 and the war when I wrote the lyrics, I had to write the lyrics when the Ukraine war already broke out and of course that is a huge topic also and I mean, for us this record is for every individual, to all mankind actually: who are we? Where do we want to go? What is our perspective for climate, for everything? What are we going to do? What is my own point of start and my own contribution to everything? All these questions melt down in this past year. Then ‘Ayam’ came along and we thought: okay that is the perfect title for exactly those questions.
It is not that you suddenly saw the light in spiritual things?
(laughs) No, not suddenly, but I am into spiritual things if you want to say so, but it is not the main thing. If you know what I mean. But then of course – I don’t want to go into politics and stuff like that – but there is some truth in everything. The only way that we can go through all this what is happening in the world, is together. Period. That is my belief. There is no way around it. It is not happening.
You have a fascination for the stars and the universe as well I think…
(chuckles) For everything that I ever found some kind of, relief is the wrong word, maybe feeling at home, it was in myself kind of connecting with the world around me. That can be a river, that can be an ocean, family, stars… What I do is more emotional than I kind of think about it. I go to places, in the outback, to write music, to focus on the feeling. And of course the things that happen there, they happen. You cannot kind of forecast things happening. Suddenly it is snowing and you are snowed in and I cannot leave the place for three days, well okay, then it is that feeling that prevails.
Did you start writing on your own or did you have the other guys with you from the beginning besides you?
This time we could not meet very often. Of course we had a lot of skype sessions and whatever. Definitely it is the album where the guys contributed the most, I cannot say that they added something particular, the whole album has been worked out together in a way. Everybody was really involved and then it is my task to put everything together, but I am really glad. I really wanted to do that. There was a meeting after ‘The Liberation’ was released and we talked about everything we wanted to achieve and one thing was that we were kind of ready to go to the next step with also the feelings of the guys, you know. This is what came out…
I think ‘Abide The Storm’ seems to be the right attitude to face life, isn’t it?
‘Abide The Storm’ is a song that literally just happened. I remember I was on a long walk in the forest and when I came back and took my guitar, not all but most of it just came out. Of course this record has a lot of strength and threads in it, in the music, but there is always a level of uncertainty in a psychological way about the acceptance. Everything just works if you are strong inside yourself. When you believe in it, not about faith, but when you are really convinced about the things you do and the things you think. You better don’t have fear of the coming storm, but accept that it is coming.
On the other hand ‘Longhope’ is very contemplative… what has driven you to write that?
(chuckles) Once again, it is hard to put in words. We write a lot of stuff and basically what happens when we feel connected to something, then we just go for it. Of course there are some things that we will do later, but usually we never do them. If it does not feel right, we don’t do it. The connection is not so much what drove us to do it, it is just a feeling to do it and go into it. We talk about songs but for me it is most important to have a whole record, to have an album. This hour of music and its developments and the drama, the relief and the tension and it is supposed to be a movie. We want to make music movies. Of course we know there is Spotify and you cannot sell a 12 minutes song, but what we want to do is making a whole album. ‘Longhope’ was also very crucial at some point, it was clear that we needed this more or less solemn atmosphere.
What about the experience of working with Jens Bogren for the mix? That is a big name.
Yeah. Definitely a big name, but also a nice human being. It was very intense and short. I mean, it was only five days. We had a lot of e-mail contacts beforehand and everything, because there was no other way for scheduling. A very tight schedule, but we pulled this through in five days. Of course he did a lot of preparations before I got there and then it was just really professional focused working. Today we have eight songs on the record and to make it work we needed to finish two songs a day, which is not doable but we did it. It was a rush and the last e-mail before we got there was like ‘okay let us put this through and I hope we can get through this alive’. (chuckles) It was absolutely a masterclass of engineering but of course next to it, his musicianship in hearing things in a way and really quickly decides what is important. This is really good. So amazing.
The first song is called ‘Am Abgrund’. Does it mean that you started the album in a depressive, pessimistic way?
No. First of all, this song did not have a title when we worked it out. It was very clear that this song was going to be the first one on the record, because we wanted to make a little bit of a connection between ‘The Liberation’ and this record. It was intentional. We asked ourselves where our fictional character was at the end of ‘The Liberation’. Where is he, emotionally and psychologically and then there was covid-19. Before you had all these options, what you can do and where you can go and sometimes it just feels like you don’t know where to go. In this changing world it is kind of pity. I mean, the world is on the edge of an abyss in a way. It sounds traumatized, I know but then again, not really if you look close. Will we make it or not?
The artwork looks very intense. Can you tell something more about that?
To make a long story short: after some thoughts and also some MP3’s that we sent to Safi, she made some drafts and we thought: hey this is the right language and we let her do what she wants. In a way it was her interpretation of everything and there was no need to put on another concept or change anything. You have to see the whole work, because we are talking now about the cover with the clouds, but if you unfold it and see the whole thing, it is really beautiful and intense. It was really hard to decide what we were going to put on the cover, but it turned out well. She did ‘The Liberation’ and there is a continuation.
Ah there is a kind of consistence, that is also important…
It is important. We had a long break, more over ten years and everything we are doing is still kind of trying to come back in a way. Now we have to stay strong. I am not twenty anymore, it takes a lot of energy.
But it always remained a hobby for you I guess?
You mean, during the break?
No, in general.
I live from the music now, I do. We are very happy that we have a crowd-funding going on with Patreon. I started this in 2016 and early 2017 we released ‘Aleah’. I thought, only one song, how is this supposed to be working for me. I just opened up this crowd-funding thing out of the blue and since then it is working. Now I know everybody and it is also of course changing, but I am actually very grateful because without those funds and people this would not be possible. It went really well with ‘The Liberation’ in 2019, but it was sad, then came covid-19, so now it is a restart in a way, for everybody, for a lot of bands in a way. But I can put it differently and say that we are really glad that we made it through these times. So in the end everything went fine.
What are the plans for the near future?
It is very simple. Because of covid-19 – once again – everything was postponed and getting complicated. We haven’t played a lot of shows. We had a European tour with Obscura and Persefone recently and on the 4th of November we will have a release show for the album in our hometown, but this will be the last show. It is crazy. It is supposed to be the other way around. The plan is very simple. After the release show I will go – and all of us – will go on vacation and take a break for two or three weeks and don’t talk about music, which of course will not happen because the album is coming out, but then we will focus on the new record. That is the deal. We will take long walks on the sea and talk about what we want to do.